Marked by Sarah Fine (Servants of Fate #1)
In a broken landscape carved by environmental collapse, Boston paramedic Cacia Ferry risks life and limb on the front lines of a fragile and dangerous city. What most don’t know—including her sexy new partner, Eli Margolis—is that while Cacy works to save lives, she has another job ferrying the dead to the Afterlife. Once humans are “Marked” by Fate, the powerful Ferrys are called to escort the vulnerable souls to either eternal bliss or unending fire and pain.
Unaware of Cacy’s other life, Eli finds himself as mesmerized by his fierce and beautiful partner as he is mistrustful of the influential Ferry clan led by the Charon—who happens to be Cacy’s father. Cacy, in turn, can no longer deny her intense attraction to the mysterious ex-Ranger with a haunted past. But just as their relationship heats up, an apparent hit takes the Charon before his time. Shaken to the core, Cacy pursues the rogue element who has seized the reins of Fate, only to discover that Eli has a devastating secret of his own. Not knowing whom to trust, what will Cacy have to sacrifice to protect Eli—and to make sure humanity’s future is secure?
I tried multiple times over several days to get into this book with little success for either attempt. Marked was a hard sell for me as a reader, though I have greatly enjoyed the other novels I have read from Sarah Fine. This just didn't grab me; the magical systems seemed too convoluted with too little explanation for me to understand. Read 95/332 pages.
Hellhole by Gina Damico
A devil is a bad influence . . .
There was a time when geeky, squeaky-clean Max Kilgore would never lie or steal or even think about murder. Then he accidentally unearths a devil, and Max’s choices are no longer his own. The big red guy has a penchant for couch surfing and junk food—and you should never underestimate evil on a sugar high.
With the help of Lore, a former goth girl who knows a thing or two about the dark side, Max is racing against the clock to get rid of the houseguest from hell before time, and all the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos this side of the fiery abyss, run out.
Hellhole is another YA supernatural that I wanted and expected to love, but was just uninvolved with. Damico is often clever and funny and the parts I read reflect some of that, but this was not a great example of her strengths as an author. Read 90/349 pages.
Fool's War by Sarah Zettel
Katmer Al Shei has done well with the starship Pasadena, cutting corners where necessary to keep her crew paid and her journeys profitable. But there are two things she will never skimp on: her crew—and her fool. For a long space journey, a certified Fool’s Guild clown is essential, to amuse, excite, and otherwise distract the crew from the drudgeries of interstellar flight. Her newest fool, Evelyn Dobbs, is a talented jester. But does she have enough wit to save mankind?
In the computers of the Pasadena, something is emerging. The highly sophisticated software that makes interstellar travel practical is playing host to a new form of artificial intelligence, one with its own mind, its own needs, and its own desperate fears. Combatting this terrifying new threat becomes the fool’s secret fight. Evelyn Dobbs’s personal war might just cost Katmer Al Shei everything, and everyone, she holds dear. But if they fail, humanity itself is lost for good.
This has so many good ideas in it but the execution is all over the place. There's just too much with too little time and depth spent with each in the first 150 pages. It makes for a promising but frustrating experience. Read 175/455 pages.
Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh (Ivory and Bone #1)
A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.
Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.
As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.
So, yeah. This book.... is just a big mess. It's detailed and has a great idea -- but the execution of that idea results in a pretty damn boring storyline. The blurb promises a lot but there's not much engaging about the characters or the plot of the book. Read 110/371 pages.
In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne (Bound Gods #1)
A breathtaking talent makes her debut with this first book in a dark epic fantasy trilogy, in which a mismatched band of mortals, led by violent, secretive man, must stand against a pair of resentful gods to save their world.
Eons ago, a pair of gods known as the “Twins” grew powerful in the world of Fiatera, until the Divine Mother and Almighty Father exiled them, binding them deep in the earth. But the price of keeping the fire-lands safe is steep. To prevent these young gods from rising again, all twins in the land must be killed at birth, a safeguard that has worked, until now.
Trapped for centuries, the Twins are gathering their latent powers to break free and destroy the Parents for their tyranny—a fight between two generations of gods for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it.
When the gods make war, only one side can be victorious. Joros, a mysterious and cunning priest, has devised a dangerous plan to win. Over eight years, he gathers a team of disparate fighters—Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, a pair of twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law.
These warriors must learn to stand together against the unfathomable power of vengeful gods, to stop them from tearing down the sun . . . and plunging their world into darkness.
Grimdark, with strong religious strife was a theme... I just wasn't that into the storylines being set up here. I do like fantasies that are dark and gritty, but I need them to be original with the premise and how it factors into the overall plot. I set this down about 200 pages in, not intending to DNF but then never really felt like picking it back up. Read 200/387 pages.
Goddess by Kelly Gardiner
Versailles, 1686: Julie d'Aubigny, a striking young girl taught to fence and fight in the court of the Sun King, is taken as mistress by the King's Master of Horse.
Tempestuous, swashbuckling and volatile, within two years she has run away with her fencing master, fallen in love with a nun and is hiding from the authorities, sentenced to be burnt at the stake. Within another year, she has become Mademoiselle de Maupin, a beloved star at the famed Paris Opéra. Her lovers include some of Europe's most powerful men and France's most beautiful women. Yet Julie is destined to die alone in a convent at the age of 33.
Based on an extraordinary true story, this is an original, dazzling and witty novel - a compelling portrait of an unforgettable woman.
For all those readers who love Sarah Dunant, Sarah Waters and Hilary Mantel.
For me, I found the comparison to Hilary Mantel more accurate than Sarah Dunant. By which I mean this was a very detailed, slow, almost coldly told story. The characters weren't very lively and failed to make me sympathize or empathize. I was bored early (in a book about La Maupin! What???) and that did not change. Read 145/385 pages.